« AnteriorContinuar »
wards to preach through all the nations of the world. He did not chuse to take up his abode at Jerusalem, because he knew the opposition which he would meet with from the Scribes and Pharisees, the chief priests and rulers, and the great men of the nation. The ambition and envy of these men would never have suffered so celebrated a teacher as Jesus CHRIST, to have resided amongst them. Our Lord therefore chose to reside at Capernaum, where he had lately, by restoring the nobleman's son, procured himself friends, and he was sure of a kind reception. Nor is it unlikely, that so great and benevolent a miracle should be generally known in the city, and not have influenced the minds of the inhabitants in favour of our Redeemer, while it prepared them for the reception of his heavenly doctrine. This city seemed a place highly convenient for the execution of his great and benevolent designs; for it being the capital of the country, and nearly bordering on the lake, it was frequently crowded with merchants and traders; who, on their return to their respective countries, might spread the report of what they might be eye and ear witnesses of; and by this means, the miracles and doctrine of the Saviour of the world, might be related in distant places. It was in the city of Capernaum, and the adjacent cities and villages bordering on the lake, that our great Redeemer spent two out of three years of his public life; most commonly going to Jerusalem at the public feasts, but soon returning. He frequently preached in the synagogues on the Sabbath.day, not only in Capernaum, but in the other cities of Galilee; and often the country villages, the fields, the mountains, the plains, and the waters of the lake were blessed with his presence; and his heavenly doctrine was learned by the attentive multitudes who followed him, to hear his words and see his wondrous works.
It was in one of these excursions, that he called Si mon and Andrew. These disciples were following their occupation of fishing on the lake: they had known
him before, and immediately followed him. Soon after he saw James and John who were busy in the same employment: he called them also, and they readily obeyed. Perhaps, they might have been acquainted with our Redeemer on the banks of Jordan; or if not, his call was accompanied with such a manifestation of divine power, that all their scruples were overcome, and with a joyful readiness and elevation of mind, they followed the Saviour of the world.
Accompanied by these disciples, our blessed Redeemer took a tour through several cities, towns and villages in Galilee: the time he spent in this progress, is not particularly noted by the evangelists, but we are told, that he wrought a great number of miracles, that he healed the diseases of those that applied to him, and performed such wonderful works, that his fame drew great multitudes of people after him, not only from Galilee, but the remoter parts of Judea, and even from beyond Jordan: nor was the fame of the wonders he performed, confined to the land of Israel, for the inhabitants of Syria brought their sick unto the province of Galilee, to be healed by the Saviour of mankind.
The blessed JEsus, perceiving himself followed by a vast multitude of people, who all crowded around him, with the utmost earnestness and attention, ascended a mountain that was near at hand, and placing himself on an eminence, while all the people stood on the sides of the hill, he addressed the listening throng from thence; and with the most intelligent simplicity and plainness, joined with the most powerful heart-affecting energy, he inculcated in them the moral precepts of his religion.
He began his divine discourse, with the doctrine of happiness, a subject which had claimed the first attention of the schools of the philosophers, and the wise men of the age; and a subject, which, in its own nature,
claims the consideration of every intelligent being, and the more so, as the wisest of mankind have differed very much in their definitions what true happiness is, as well as the means by which it is to be attained. The Jews in general, concluded it to consist in opulence, grandeur, and glory; on that account they wished to see the Messiah's kingdom, because they supposed it would be a temporal dominion, and that a golden sceptre, instead of a sceptre of righteousness, would be the sceptre of his kingdom: and so prevailing was the opinion of the temporal reign of the Messiah, that the disciples themselves retained this notion, till after his resurrection, and probably were induced to follow him at first, by the expectation of high honors and rewards.
The blessed Jesus, therefore, thought fit to shew his hearers in general, and his disciples in particular, their mistakes in so important a point, and let them know, that happiness did not consist in the abundance of things possessed, nor in the opinion which the world might form concerning them, but in an entire resignation of mind to the will of God, who is perfectly wise and good, who orders and disposes all things with the utmost accuracy and exactness, so as to promote the best interest of his people; and an acknowledgment of his superior wisdom, and our own blindness and folly, tends to the ease and quiet of our minds, when we are oppressed and afflicted, and cannot disçern the wise ends of his dispensations. Blessed, said our great Redeemer, are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And though the sense of our own meanness and unworthiness might excite us to mourn, and fill us with sorrow of heart, the divine teacher informed his hearers, that this was a true sign of succeeding happiness: Blessed, said he, arc they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Our exalted Redeemer further proceeded to inform his attentive hearers, that true happiness did not consist in the grațification of their inordinate passions and inclinations,
but in the suppressing of them, and keeping them within the bounds of reason and religion. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. The divine teacher then proceeded to observe, that happiness did not consist in what the world calls conquest and glory; for tyrants and
conquerors, who disturb the peace, and destroy the comforts of mankind are most deplorably miserable: but true happiness falls to the share of those who are lovers of peace, and seek to promote kindness, benevolence, and all the social affections amongst men; for they imitate the perfection of heavenly goodness, which so conspicuously shines in their Maker, and will therefore be called his children. Blessed are the peace makers, said our exalted Redeemer, for they shall be called the children of God. And if these holy and amiable persons, should not at first find that happiness which they are entitled to as heirs of heaven; though they should be reviled and persecuted by the wicked of this world; though they should be deprived of their comforts, and undergo the severest trials ; yet the great Saviour of mankind pronounces them blessed. Blessed, said he, are they that are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Solid contentment and true happiness, the heavenly teacher informs us, are not to be expected from the praise of men, nor from the noise of popular applause, but will hereafter be the portion of those who are falsely reviled for their integrity and uprightness, and their steady attachment to truth; such persons measurably partake of the sufferings of Christ: and it was by these persecutions, and the contempt of the world, that the prophets have been in all ages distinguished. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Such were the declarations of the Son of God, with reference to the happiness of man; after which, the blessed Jesus addressed himself to his disciples, and pointed out their duty as preachers of the gospel, designed by the sovereign Ruler of all things, to teach his will, and lead others in the paths of eternal happiness. But, as the doctrine which he had advanced was so directly contrary to the traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees, our Redeemer thought it necessary to inform his disciples, that he had no intention to destroy the moral precepts contained in the law and the prophets, but to fulfil and confirm them. Nothing is more firm, and fixed on a more immoveable basis, than the great precepts of morality: these, being copied from the perfections of God, must remain fixed and immov. able: the eternal laws of righteousness cannot be altered; heaven and earth will pass away, but the moral Jaw of God will always remain the same. This our great Redeemer strictly enjoined his disciples to inforce in the strongest manner, both by precept and example; and gave them several instances in which the Scribes and Pharisees had interpreted the moral law in too loose and careless a manner. He then condescended to assist their devotions, by teaching them that excellent form of Prayer, which is called by his name, and is in constant use among Christians.
Our Father which art in learen. The
The great Creator and Preserver of men, may be, with the highest propriety called our Father; for it is to his alinighty power, that we owe our existence; he is, in a peculiar and distinguishing manner called the Father of spirits, because he alone is the author of all spiritual existence. The form of our bodies owes its original, to his boundless, unerring wisdom, and all our active powers are the produce of his all-creating goodness. Nor is it only by right of creation, that the eternal God may